As a parent or caregiver, you likely have questions about masking for children. We hope this page, featuring information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Prevea Pediatrics and Prevea Therapy for Pediatrics, is helpful to you.
Should children wear masks?
Most children older than 2 can wear a mask.
However, children under 2 should NOT
wear a mask due to suffocation risk and choking hazards. In addition, parents of kids with cognitive or respiratory impairments should be careful with masks for their children. If you have any questions or concerns about whether your child is healthy enough to wear a mask, it is important to talk to your child's doctor.
Where should children wear masks?
Children should wear masks in public places where they may not be able to avoid staying 6 feet away from others, such as at the doctor, pharmacy or grocery store.
When do children NOT need to wear a mask?
Children do not need to wear a mask at home, assuming they have not been exposed to anyone with COVID-19. They also do not need to wear a mask outside, as long as they can stay at least 6 feet away from others and avoid touching surfaces.
How can I help my child become more comfortable with wearing a mask?
One of the most effective ways to help your child become more comfortable and/or less afraid with wearing a mask is by being a role model. When you also wear a mask, and do so with a positive attitude, your child is likely to follow your lead! Here are some more helpful tips to help your children become more comfortable with masks:
- Look in the mirror with the mask on and talk about it. Be honest about why we have to wear masks (to keep other safe and to keep ourselves safe from sickness) but don’t be scary.
- Put a mask on a favorite stuffed animal.
- Decorate them so they're more personalized and fun.
- Show your child pictures of other children wearing them.
- Draw one on their favorite book character.
- Practice wearing the mask at home to help your child get used to it. Start slow. If your child is resistant to the idea of wearing a mask, start with short windows of time with clearly defined start and end times to help build their acceptance. Kids often benefit from knowing when they can stop doing something difficult.
- Make your mask your own. Not all face masks are the same. Try a variety of styles and fabrics to find one that your child is most comfortable in for the school day.
Help build your child’s ability to wear a mask with the following strategies:
- Set a timer-anything visual works well-sand timer, digital clock or timer app.
- Wearing a mask for the length of a favorite song or while playing a game or completing a puzzle.
- Wearing a mask in the car from point A to point B (clearly defined start and end times).
- Putting a mask on and taking selfies of the ways you can make silly faces with your just your eyes.
Talk about sensory differences in a mask:
Our senses may be impacted by wearing a mask. Talking about the differences will help children adjust to the change toward wearing a mask during the school day. Some examples:
- We all look different with masks on. Take pictures of each other with masks on and off and look at the difference. Look in the mirror and make faces with masks on and off.
- Kids may not like the smell of their breath in the mask. Try a mint or mouthwash if they are able.
- Practice talking loudly or softly and talk about how sound changes with the mask on.
- Use lotion on cheeks if the mask makes their skin dry out.
- Adjust the ties/ear loops to find the right fit. Have your child help so they can work towards independence taking the mask on, off and adjusting when you are not there.
Talking with your children about masks:
For children under 3
, it's best to answer their questions simply by using words they understand. If they ask about why people are wearing masks, explain that sometimes people wear them when they are sick, and when they are all better, they stop wearing them.
For children over 3
, try focusing on germs. Explain that germs are special to your own body. Some germs are good and some are bad. The bad ones can make you sick. Since we can't always tell which are good or bad, the masks help make sure you keep those germs away from your own body.
For additional guidance about children and masking, click here.